You Must Be Born Again
Early on in my conversion, you couldn’t have told me that I had not been “born again”. After all, I had done all of the traditional things…confessed that Jesus was my Lord, been baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” and “became a member” of a local church. But then I met someone who asked me some questions about where these traditions are found in the Bible. I was challenged to get out my Strong’s Concordance and look up every verse pertaining to baptism.
What I found was very interesting. Every example of baptism (post ascension) was done “in the name of Jesus Christ”, or simply “the name of Jesus”. I found not one example of baptism being performed in the titles of “Father”, “Son” and “Holy Ghost”. It has been questioned throughout history if Matthew 28:19 was even a part of the original text. Whether it was, or was not is still up for debate, but when comparing Matthew 28:19 to Luke 24:47 and Acts 2:38, the answer seems pretty clear.
Here is what I discovered starting from the
beginning of Jesus’ ministry…
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night, and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these signs that you do unless God is with him’. Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’. Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born’? Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, you must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from, or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit’. Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can these things be’? Jesus answered him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony.” (John 3:1-11)
What exactly did Jesus mean when he said to Nicodemus “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit”?
Here, John records some rather curious sayings of Jesus in his exchange with Nicodemus.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit...We speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive [believe] our testimony.” - John 3:8; 11 (ESV). (The KJV uses “witness” in place of “testimony”)
Whose testimony? Whose witness? Jesus and his disciples? Or Jesus and John the Baptist?
What the bible tells us in the Gospel of Luke is that John was filled with the Holy Spirit “even from his mother’s womb”. Now this John, was the only person who had knowledge of the testimony of Heaven at the time Jesus witnessed to Nicodemus…“repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand”. It was John, who being guided by the Spirit of God, having laid his eyes on Jesus said: “Behold the LAMB of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
How did John know this? How did he know to say: “I baptize you with water, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”?
Jesus had just called His disciples prior to His encounter with Nicodemus. They were only beginning to be taught the things of God; whereas John had been given revelation through the Spirit of prophesy within him.
And, was it not Jesus himself who after being baptized “saw the heavens open to him and the Spirit of God descending upon him like a dove”? (Mathew 3:16-17) As the one who descended from heaven, Jesus also knew heavenly things. Both Jesus and John saw the same revelation. “And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore I come baptizing with water”, and “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, ‘Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost’.” - John 1:31-34
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit”…
In the Book of Acts, Jesus is quoted as having said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” - Acts 1:4, 5 and 8
Witnesses of what? You see, only after His resurrection do His disciples become witnesses of Him…they are given living proof to show to the world that He rose from the dead – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit manifested outwardly in the divine sign of speaking in tongues.
“It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” - Acts 1:21-22
“And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this He has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, also it is written in the Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ And as far for the fact that he raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David….You will not let your Holy one see corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but He whom God raised up did not see corruption.” - Acts 3:33-37
And, what is the sign…the proof of His (Jesus’) resurrection – for all times?
What happened to fulfill the prophecy of Joel? - Acts 2:16-21
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4
You see, when the Spirit within you gives utterances, He speaks a pure language of God, a language unknown to us, but which produces a pure and perfect worship unto God! This is how He “writes” things on our hearts.
1 Corinthians 12:3 says - “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”
Speaking in tongues is therefore proof that He rose from the dead…“Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not…” - 1 Corinthians 14:22
There is power……in the name of Jesus!
You see, anyone can “prove” their confession of faith by being baptized in water – and we must, for the scripture says: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…”
But what about this baptism “of fire” that Jesus performs? It has to have some sort of proof as well, doesn’t it? “…and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” - Acts 2:38
“Now The Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” - 2 Corinthians 3:17
John baptized with water, but said there would come after him One who baptized with fire. In this next verse, the distinction between the two is made very clear. “for the Spirit had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. - Acts 8:16
“And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance; telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is Jesus. On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.” - Acts 19:4-7
“What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I am of Paul’, or ‘I am of Apollos’…or ‘I am of Christ ’. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you…” -1 Cor 1:12-14
“…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (the name of Jesus) - Acts 4:12
“Whatever you ask in My name…” (the name of Jesus) - John 14:13
There is a sound…
Starting in Isaiah 28 verse 5, “In that day shall the Lord of Hosts BE for a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people, and for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate…For all are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean. WHOM shall he teach knowledge? And WHOM shall he make understand doctrine? THEM that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts…for precept MUST BE upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little. For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to His people.”
Mark 16:17 – (Jesus Himself said) “And these SIGNS shall follow them THAT BELIEVE , in My Name shall they cast out devils, THEY SHALL speak with new tongues.”
Are you a believer? Jesus didn’t say this was for “first century believers”only – He said “them that believe”, as in ALL times…it’s simply not optional!!! The indwelling of His Spirit…being born again, is the sign that He rose from the dead!! A sign here on earth meant to last until He returns. These are HIS words, not mine!
Acts 2:3-4 – “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it SAT UPON each of them, And they were ALL filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Acts 2:11 – “Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongue the wonderful works of God.”
Demons do not proclaim “the wonderful works of God”!!
Acts 10:46-47 – “For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water that these should be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” And HOW did the apostles KNOW that “these” had received the Holy Ghost? Because they HEARD them speak in another tongue!
It is here that we see another distinction between the two events made perfectly clear. “These” received the gift of the Holy Spirit before they had been baptized in water, but it was still necessary for them to perform the act of water baptism for the remission of sin...something still had to die, didn’t it? You simply do not receive the Holy Spirit “automatically”upon water baptism without any physical evidence to “prove” it. The Holy Spirit is God’s SEAL…it’s a MARK that is made visible upon those to who He gives it…every single person, every single time.
Jesus Himself said, “Not every one that says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father which is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” - Matthew 7:21-22
“Do not grumble among yourselves…I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I AM the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘HOW can this man give us his flesh to eat?’
So Jesus said unto them, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day [by the power of the Holy Spirit]…Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him…
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’
But Jesus, knowing in Himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and Life. But there are some of you who do not believe.
For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him…
After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well? Peter Simon answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’.” - John 6:43-68
I want you to understand something here. These were devout, Jewish men. They didn’t leave Him and turn to a life of “sin”. That’s not what the scripture says. What they did was to go back to their Jewish heritage and reliance on the Law…the manna that was given to the flesh as a schoolmaster until the time that the Spirit should be given.
“Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from the servant, though he be the lord of all; but under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world [meaning the law]: but when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying ‘Abba, Father’. Wherefore thou art no more a servant [of the law/the slave woman], but a son [of God/the free woman]; and if a son, then an heir of God through Jesus Christ.” - Galatians 4:1-7 (see also Ephesians 4:30-31)
Jesus was trying to breathe Spirit and Life into them, but they refused to accept ALL he was saying. We want the easy way, don’t we? We don’t want to be bothered with precepts upon precepts, and lines upon lines.
“You MUST be born again….”
“I have been crucified with Christ Jesus. It is no longer I who live, but Jesus Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ Jesus and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.” - Philippians 3:8-11
“You were running well. Who did hinder you from the truth?” - Galatians 5:7
Do you really believe the evidence of speaking in tongues that God gave to all the Apostles and every believer at Pentecost…PAUL…is now suddenly “of the devil”? How clever of that devil to deceive you!
Wake up O you sleepers!!
Paul asked, “Do all speak in tongues?” A tongue, yes! Tongues, no! Let me explain the difference. Everyone who has been born of the Spirit of God manifests the evidence of it by speaking in another tongue (singular) to the edification of self. But, “some” are gifted with tongues for the edification of the body – which means they speak (should speak) in a tongue during a corporate worship service and there is an interpretation that follows. (I explain how this is missing from our modern day church services, and why in “The Absence of Christ’s Gifts and the Apostate Church”)
“Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” - 1 Corinthians 12:30
Notice how Paul never singles out “tongues” by itself? WE are the ones doing this!
“Though I [Paul] speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” - 1 Corinthians 13:1
“Charity [love] never fails [because God is love], but whether there be prophesies, they shall fail; and whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall fade away” - 1 Corinthians 13:8
If we have lost prophesy and tongues, are we saying that we have also lost knowledge? God forbid, right?!! What would we do without all of our knowledge?!!!
“FOR we know in part, and we prophesy in part, BUT…when that which is perfect is come [Christ Jesus at his second appearing], THEN that which is in part shall be done away with.”
This happens when Jesus returns. There will no longer be any need for prophesy, or knowledge, or tongues – only LOVE will remain, and because God IS love - love can never fail! But all else will fail in the face of Christ Jesus!
As is it is written “For we now see dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; [but] THEN I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” - 1 Corinthians 13:12-13
In the meantime, we are admonished to hear and to understand:
“In the Law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that THEY WILL NOT HEAR ME, saith THE LORD.” -1 Corinthians 14:21
Again, “Wherefore tongues are not for a sign to them that believe, but to them that BELIEVETH NOT” (1 Cor 14:22)
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ Jesus, he is none of His.” - Romans 8:9
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ Jesus was lifted up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life.” - Romans 6:4
“But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says. ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ Jesus will shine on you’.” - Ephesians 5:13-14
You see, all baptism does is kill your flesh. Receiving the Holy Spirit IS your new birth...it’s what gives you life! Without it, you’re still in the grave. While you may feel different…you haven’t quite “arrived” yet, have you? You must rise up out of that grave to new life!
“You MUST be born again…”
Precept upon precept…line upon line.
Even Isaiah knew that he had unclean lips!!
“Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of UNCLEAN LIPS, and I dwell in the midst of people with unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he LAID IT UPON MY MOUTH and said, lo, THINE INIQUITY IS TAKEN AWAY AND THY SIN PURGED.” - Isaiah 6:6-7
Just like Isaiah, Joel prophesied that Jesus’ disciples would also have “clean lips”!
“He that hath an ear, let him hear”…“Truth comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” - Romans 10:17
Starting in Acts 2:11
“…we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God. And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine’. But Peter, standing with the eleven [and having just been filled with the Holy Spirit for the very first time], lifted up his voice and addressed them, ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this [what you are seeing and hearing] is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants in those days I shall pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy…Men of Israel, hear these words…”
Born of the Spirit…
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius…a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. He saw in a vision” [and Peter was also at the same time having a vision, but…] “while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he has seen would mean”…[deep called to deep (Psalm 42:7) and the two met. As Peter explains the word more perfectly to Cornelius] “the Holy Ghost fell on all of them which heard the word, for they [the disciples] heard them [Cornelius and his household] speak with tongues, and magnify God. Can any man forbid water, that these should be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” - Acts 10 (various verses)
Here’s what I want you to see: Cornelius was in the womb. He was nearing the time appointed for his spiritual birth, but hadn’t quite arrived just yet. Rather, he was being called out by the Holy Spirit. He had been doing all the “right” things. He was a devout man. A good man that feared God. He and his entire household. He gave alms regularly, and was always praying to God. What Cornelius had was knowledge of God, but according to that same God, it wasn’t enough – was it? God wanted Cornelius to BE different.
Up to this point, all Cornelius had felt was God’s hand upon his life. He was still “thirsting after God”. But, once Cornelius heard the words of God more perfectly, a new world was opened to him – a spiritual world…one where God could now work with Cornelius like a potter and His clay. Corneilus had emerged into the Light!! Oh that GLORIOUS LIGHT!!!! Cornelius beheld the King!!!
Then, and only then, was God able to fill him with living water. And much to Cornelius’s surprise, this water was now welling up from inside of him and pouring forth from his mouth – WOW! You see, before Peter arrived, Cornelius was “doing all the right things” in his own strength. But as The Ghost of The Holy One “put on” [Hebrew “lavshah”]; clothed himself with Cornelius, his strength was taken away – it was quenched!
It’s like this…have you ever been thirsty on a hot day and all you want is some ice cold water to drink? You wait for what seems like hours…yet, when the water arrives – it gets poured on your head instead of in your mouth! While that might feel good and serve its own purpose – what you really wanted was this water inside of you, right? You wanted it to quench your thirst!
Jesus said to the woman at the well…
“Give me a drink….If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. The woman said to him, ‘Sir you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep [Oh my, yes!]. Where do you get that living water?’…Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty ever again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life…Woman, believe me [hear me….], the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. BUT the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God IS Spirit, and those who worship him MUST worship IN SPIRIT and truth.”
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit”…
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God [which is the Spirit of Christ Jesus]; for ‘All flesh [manna…living under the law] is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of God remains forever’.” - 1 Peter 1:22-25
“And you show that you are a letter from Christ Jesus delivered to us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ Jesus toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. For is what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.” - 2 Cor 3:3-11
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” - James 1:16-18
The apostle Paul said it like this: “From now on therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ Jesus according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer…
Therefore if anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation [creature].”, and “For [in Christ Jesus] neither circumcision counts for anything, nor un-circumcision, but a NEW CREATION.” - 2 Cor 5:16-17, Galatians 6:15
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through Him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came into His own, and His own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” - John 1:6-13
“We speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not believe our testimony.”
You MUST be born again. You must be born OF GOD…
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